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Plea offer extended in Michael Leach case

By GARY LIBERATORE

HERKIMER, N.Y. (WKTV) - Michael Leach now has two weeks to decide whether to accept a plea offer, or stand trial on a second degree murder charge in Herkimer County Court.

The 59 year old police officer with the Village of Perry, about 30 minutes outside of Rochester, is accused of shooting and killing his 37 year old son, Matthew Leach, around 1 a.m. on July 21, 2012 inside the Clark's Beach Motel room in Old Forge. Authorities say the two were sharing during a motorcycle trip with others from the Rochester area.

The elder Leach has said from the beginning that he had been sleeping and thought his son was an intruder when he came through the door.

The plea offer, made in open court Monday morning and on the record, is, if Leach pleads guilty to second degree manslaughter, he will be sentenced to 3 to 9 years in state prison.

If Leach rejects the offer and takes his case to trial on the second degree murder charge, he faces a minimum of 15 years to life and a maximum of 25 to life.

Herkimer County District Attorney Jeff Carpenter says he traveled to Rochester this past week to talk face to face with the wife of the victim, Matthew Leach, about whether she would like to see a plea offer made in her father-in-law's case.

Carpenter says Leach's widow was onboard with this offer, but wouldn't elaborate on the details of his conversation with her, stating only that the acceptance of a plea offer would eliminate her having to go through a trial.

Leach's defense attorney, Joe Damelio of Rochester said after court Monday morning that his client did not know that an offer was going to be made, and wouldn't comment on the conversation he had with his client about the offer, stating the two will talk about it and the strength of his case before making a decision.

Leach must have his decision on the plea offer by Monday, August 19.

Leach's trial was supposed to have begun on this very day he received this plea offer, but two weeks ago, his attorney asked for an extension in order to get a psychiatric evaluation of his client by an expert, who then would be called as a witness during trial.

Judge John Crandall approved the request, and set this date, August 5th to return to court for an update on how soon the evaluation report by that expert would become available.

Aside from the plea offer made on Monday, a 30 day time frame was given in order for the defense to get that expert's report.

If Leach rejects the plea offer, he will have to provide that expert's report by Friday, September 5, and at that point, the prosecution will be given the report and then be given time to get their own expert report based on that.

Taking all of that into consideration, Crandall set new trial date of Monday, November 18.

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